By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jessica Tounzen Naval Medical Center San Diego Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO - Naval Medical Center San Diego's (NMCSD) Radiation Oncology clinic has been accredited through the American College of Radiology (ACR) through February 2015.
According to the ACR, the accreditation process "provides radiation oncologists with third-party, impartial peer review and evaluation of patient care, [while examining] the facility's personnel, equipment, treatment planning and treatment records, as well as patient safety policies, quality control and quality assessment activities" (www.acr.org).
The clinic has maintained ACR accreditation since 1997, with the last accreditation representing the clinic's fifth consecutive time earning the ACR's seal of approval on its services and patient care. Earning the ACR's accreditation on Radiation Oncology's services also places NMCSD in a unique position; it is the only military treatment facility in Navy Medicine that has it, according to Cmdr. (Dr.) Frank Pearson, director of NMCSD's Clinical Support Services.
Cmdr. (Dr.) Robert Takesuye, radiation oncologist's division officer, revealed what made it possible for the clinic to earn its fifth radiation oncology accreditation from the ACR.
"Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) played a big role," he said. "We're constantly working to improve patient care and we're always ensuring 100 percent accuracy of all our data. Even now, we're laying the groundwork for the next one."
Pearson added patient care and data accuracy went hand-in-hand toward earning Radiation Oncology's ACR accreditation.
"There was a lot of pre-work, and a lot of attention to detail.especially with regard to formulating patient care plans, from the doctor, to the medical physicist who does the physics calculations, to the radiation therapist who implements the treatment," Pearson said.
Dedicated, highly trained personnel are the heart and soul of the clinic, said Takesuye, who cited retired Navy Capt. Dr. Richard LaFontaine, the clinic's Medical Physicist, as one of the biggest contributors to the clinic's success.
"The backbone of Radiation Oncology is the medical physicists, and Dr. LaFontaine is one of the best physicists out there," Takesuye said. "He's brilliant, just incredibly smart. On a day-to-day basis he ensures our equipment is accurate and is doing what it's supposed to do, and that's huge."
Another of Radiation Oncology's staff members, Cmdr. (Dr.) Harvey Wilds, implemented the use of quality assurance forms to streamline patient and improve communication between all team members. The ACR's team of inspectors liked the forms so much, they decided to share them with their home institutions.
Having the right equipment for the job is also vital to Radiation Oncology's daily mission. The clinic has two linear accelerators, and received a third in January, which is slated to be available for use this summer. The machine's accuracy enables clinic staff to pinpoint the area of treatment down to approximately a millimeter in accuracy, minimizing damage to viable tissue from the radiation treatments while maximizing results.
Pearson explained seeking accreditation through the ACR is entirely optional, and the fact that Radiation Oncology has earned it five times in a row further emphasizes the clinic's commitment to the highest quality patient care.
"There's perhaps a certain degree of satisfaction or peace of mind for a patient trying to decide where to go for therapy.because they do have a choice. They don't have to come here for treatment," he said. "It's like deciding what restaurant to eat at, or where to take your car for repairs. You choose a place because it's the best. An outside agency found we're safe and we provide the best quality care possible for patients who need it the most, and that speaks volumes."